Fantastic Four #48-50
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #48, Fantastic Four #49, Fantastic Four #50
As the FF return home (the reprint of #48 that i have must be incomplete, as it does not contain the resolution to the Inhumans story from #47), the sky appears covered in flames. The public immediately attack the Human Torch, holding him responsible. It is a characteristic of the Marvel Universe that the people who treat their super heroes as celebrities one day will turn on them the next. Here's what the Thing thinks of people who turn on their heroes:
The flames then turn to floating boulders and debris.
Reed locks himself in his lab, growing stubble on his face and refusing to come out to eat.
Finally Sue has enough and bursts in, only to find that the Watcher is hanging out in the lab too.
The Watcher was responsible for the changes in the sky - he first created flames and then switched to debris when he realized the flames were alarming people. He's doing this to prevent the Silver Surfer from becoming interested in the Earth, but it doesn't work.
The Surfer shows up and the Thing knocks him into Alicia Master's apartment (coincidentally enough). Then Galactus shows up...
...and the FF spend some time learning how futile resistance can be, even after the Surfer switches sides after talking with Alicia (note that the Silver Surfer is so alien at this point that the concept of 'food' is foreign to him. This will change in Silver Surfer #1, where he is given a very mundane, boring origin.):
Mostly Galactus doesn't even get his hands dirty, instead releasing his "Punisher" robot.
Meanwhile, the Watcher spirits Johnny off to another dimension to pick up a Cosmic Plot Device which Reed uses to negotiate Galactus' withdrawal. We get our first glimpse of Taa II, Galactus' homeworld/spaceship.
Frankly, the whole Ultimate Nullifier ending is really lame. While there's heroism in the FF holding off Galactus while the Torch is racing through Kirbyspace, and there's bravery in Reed's willingness to fire a gun that will destroy the universe (or is it in fact reckless for Reed to threaten to destroy an entire universe to save a planet?), in the end the FF's victory was really handed to them by the Watcher. Not only is it lame, but it's also essentially the same resolution as the FF wedding issue.
Still, big cosmic Kirby coolness.
For rebelling against him, Galactus removes the Silver Surfer's space-time powers, exiling him to Earth. He shall roam the galaxies no more (or at least until the late 80s).
In this reprint, the colorist has given Galactus pants. Who dares diminish the glory of Galactus' bermuda shorts? Here's a shot from the original:
The reprint i have is a real disaster. Besides daring to cover up Galactus' legs, this mini trade doesn't bother to reprint the beginning of #48, featuring the resolution to the Inhumans story, or the end of #50, featuring the first appearance of Wyatt Wingfoot. Luckily i've got the GIT PDFs, so here's Wyatt:
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've pushed this arc slightly back in publication time to make room for Fantastic Four #51 to take place during Avengers #26, due to the Monsters on the Prowl continuity insert. According to Marvels #3, the flood in Avengers #26 occurs before Galactus arrives here. I've also decided that even though my stupid reprint doesn't include Wyatt Wingfoot or the Inhumans, i'm going to list them as Characters Appearing. Because there's no reason we all should suffer.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Silver Surfer: The Coming of Galactus
Inbound References (49): show
I always laugh at the cover to FF 50 - the big conclusion to the Galactus epic... plus, The Human Torch Goes To College!
Posted by: S | August 3, 2012 6:32 PM
Dave Cockrum has a letter in #49.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 12, 2013 7:30 PM
Gerry Conway has a letter in #50.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 29, 2013 3:35 PM
I'm surprised you didn't include the awesome shot of Galactus taking away the Surfer's power to leave Earth, thus encouraging years of changing plots and meandering. Is there a character that non-comics fans think is as cool as the Silver Surfer?
Again, great Kirby art - he was born to do this kind of thing. Although, given that Kirby was the first to draw the Watcher, you'd think he at least would have some consistency in how he is drawn, but no, the Watcher never seems to look the same from one appearance to the next.
I'm afraid I have to agree with your trade. As much as I hate having things changed, Galactus in shorts is just painful.
Gotta love the Thing and the "PLINKK!" sound effect.
One thing about having abandoned comics years ago - I am not burdened with later revelations (every time it gets mentioned about Alicia being a Skrull, I think to myself, nah, that's crazy). However, to me, the single best thing about the Earth X version of the Marvel future was the concept that Galactus' goal is to destroy Celestial eggs. I thought that was a great reasoning for why he behaves as he does and why he would choose certain planets. It may not be cannon, but it was a great idea.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 12, 2015 12:02 PM
Added that scan. Thanks for recommending it, Erik.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 13, 2015 9:45 PM
Surprisingly few comments on this classic trilogy, so thought I'd add a few miscellaneous thoughts, sparking off what fnord and Erik have written.
The Ultimate Nullifier is inarguably a deus ex machani, but the whole point here, as I take it, is that the FF is finally up against a foe they can't possibly hope to defeat. So you've got only two possible endings: this kind of one or Earth's destruction. Maybe it's just that I've known and been in awe of this story since I was young, but it seems totally cool and right-on to me even to this day. It was a one-time thing, and unfortunately, Galactus's original mystique has been compromised by most of his subsequent and ill-advised appearances. I think the only one who ever really wrote him right was Stan the Man, and I see "Judgment Day," where his unassailable power level and aloof amorality are reestablished, as a much-needed corrective.
Various things evolved here from the original conceptions, reflecting the haste and improvisation inherent in making comics on a monthly basis. For instance, we see Big G strip the Surfer of his "space-time powers" by shooting rays through his body, and that later evolves somehow into the idea of a barrier around the whole planet. And yes, there's the later change in origin, moving the Surfer away from Kirby's original conception and humanizing him much more -- but I confess to adoring SS 1st series #1 with Buscema's awesome art. The Surfer is part-Christ (sacrificing himself to save a world) and part-Lucifer (rebelling against the "god" who "created" him). That's something.
And then there's G's outfit, which evolves right within the trilogy itself! In the final panel of #48, it's green, red, and brown with pants (see above). Then it becomes purple and brown with those infamous shorts in #49. And finally it becomes purple and brown with pants in #50.
I have that cheap 1992 "Coming of Galactus" reprint also, and I think it arguably made sense in that format to include only the "trilogy" story (w/o the few pgs. of Inhumans, etc. material from 48 & 50) as well as to standardize the coloring of G's costume in the "final" #50 version.
The 2013 omnibus reprint preserves the jarring but historically accurate shifts in the costume.
Interaction between G and the Celestials seems a tempting concept. I don't believe their origin has ever been explained, but I've always thought of them as being from outside the Marvel Universe originally (like G himself).
One of my all-time favorite Kirby panels (which appears above) is the one in which the Punisher goes into triple overdrive against Reed and Ben. Such dynamism! And yet also, such stylized and "harmless" Bugs Bunny type violence.
This one will always be an A+ in my book. I consider it the summit of the early FF series: the most memorable, the most epic. It introduces two of Marvel's greatest characters, along with a whole new level of cosmic grandeur.
Posted by: Instantiation | August 10, 2015 9:24 PM
The Ultimate Nullifier is a deux es machina - which is fine here, and that it is so mysterious actually helps the ending - but many of the classic FF stories end with something similar. The wedding of Reed and Sue ended with an equally-ridiculous machine which fixed everything, and the even more ludicrous premise that Reed had to guess which machine to pick, because the Watcher chose the climactic moment to deliver a wedding present. And many other issues ended with Reed 'magically' inventing the right machine at the right time.
This is probably the best example of it working, where the FF were operating on levels even they couldn't comprehend, and the small device they had captured meant far more to Galactus than it did to them.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 10, 2015 9:33 PM
Agreed with your comments, including that things "clicked" here.
Oops, we both got a little cross-eyed with "deus ex machina" (did I get it right this time? "god from the machine"). A plot device associated with Euripides can't be all bad!
Posted by: Instantiation | August 10, 2015 10:22 PM
Two other reprints of this story came to mind: Marvel's Greatest Comics #s 35-37 and FF Marvel Masterworks #5. (And of course there's the retelling in Marvels #3.)
Posted by: Instantiation | August 11, 2015 2:17 PM
Sam & Belle Thorne appear in the tail end of #50. You probably missed tagging them initially because it'd be after the point your trade stops.
It looks like Thorne is the original name, before becoming Thorpe for #51 (where he's suddenly gone gray) and #61, then going back to Thorne for the issues in the '70s.
I guess you could also make a tag for Whitey Mullins, since he appears in #50 and #51 before fading into obscurity as the varsity football drama subplot is thankfully dropped.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 11, 2016 8:33 PM
Thanks Mortificator. I've got to replace my trade with better reprints one day. I've added tags for Sam and Belle here, and for Whitey here and on #51.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 12, 2016 10:51 AM
A recurring theme of this site seems to be "scenes cut from fnord's reprints". :)
Posted by: Michael | February 12, 2016 11:55 PM
One thing I find fascinating about Galactus' first appearance is the letter "G" on his chest. In subsequent appearances this is dropped, because it was decided it was nonsensical for an alien to have a "G" on his costume.
But oddly enough, when a John Byrne story established that different alien races see Galactus differently and in their own image, the "G" might have then made more sense!
Posted by: mikrolik | February 17, 2016 4:36 PM
I like how we see much of the text of Jameson's editorial in Marvels, and J.J. uses the big "G" as evidence that Reed fabricated the whole thing.
Posted by: Mortificator | February 18, 2016 12:13 PM
That text was great, but I was more blown away by reading the actual trilogy and discovering Busiek didn't make up the headline itself, it's right there in the original.
Posted by: ChrisW | February 18, 2016 6:02 PM
I look at the big "G" symbol as more of a symbol of infinity, reflecting the cycle of life, death, and renewal. That would fit well with Galactus' cosmic nature and his role in the universe at large.
Posted by: TCP | February 22, 2016 3:36 PM
My own head-cannon is what I heard another writer suggest somewhere in the comments: Galactus' body will eventually explode and create the next universe.
Posted by: david banes | February 22, 2016 5:50 PM
@david banes, that was John Byrne's unpublished ending for his "The Last Galactus Story " in Epic Illustrated.
Posted by: Robert | February 22, 2016 6:14 PM
A short summary of the resolution of the Inhumans story at the beginning of #48: Black Bolt smacks down Maximus contemptuously, and then switches off the atmo-gun which Maximus and the Seeker were trying to use to destroy all the humans. Maximus then "reverses the charge" on the atmo-gun, thereby making it create the impenetrable barrier dome which will separate the Great Refuge from humanity for the next several issues.
The FF narrowly escape being trapped in the Great Refuge, with Ben dragging Johnny kicking and screaming away from Crystal, who remains behind with her fellow Inhumans. Johnny mourns that he and Crystal will be separated forever.
Maximus and Reed repeatedly refer to the barrier dome as a "negative zone" although this usage of the term will be dropped after Reed starts using the term exclusively to refer to his favorite region of "subspace" starting with FF #51.
Posted by: James Holt | August 27, 2016 11:38 AM
One of the all time classic Marvel stories. It was the pinnacle of the early FF series and an evolutionary step in the growth of the Marvel Universe. Kirby created the Silver Surfer and Stan was fascinated by him once he saw him and tried to retain personal control if the character even after he stopped writing comics. He eventually relinquished this in the mid eighties allowing a new Silver Surfer series.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 7, 2016 2:02 PM
This story has it all... silver surfer, galactus, end of the world. Yet, im more intriqued of the first meeting between wingfoot and johnny!
Posted by: Roy Mattson | June 20, 2017 2:24 PM
Galactus should have his own summerwear line.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 20, 2017 2:36 PM
I've said this elsewhere, but Kirby really perfected the art of the segue by this point in his "FF" run. #47 ends with a cliff-hanger, Maximus turning on his new weapon. #48 begins with the FF being kicked out of Attilan, and realize that there's nothing they can do at the moment. So they head home and run into the Silver Surfer, fight him, and then Galactus shows up. #49 is all-Galactus [unless there's an Inhumans subplot I've forgotten about] and then halfway through #50, the big G exiles the Surfer to Earth and then leaves.
The rest of the issue is about Johnny going to college and meeting Wyatt, Ben moping about the Surfer's interest in Alicia and so on.
Posted by: ChrisW | June 21, 2017 9:10 PM
One thing that still bugs me to this day when I re-read this story is the unexplained absence of the Avengers (or just about anyone else, like the military), after one of the most powerful beings in the universe basically just parks himself on top of a skyscraper in the middle of New York and announces his intention to destroy the world. There's a What If story where the Avengers face Galactus here instead of the FF that I thought was kind of a cool chance to see how the Avengers might have done instead.
I know the whole 'Marvel Universe' thing was still a work-in-progress, but there had already been many examples of heroes working together. Some sort of in-story explanation might have helped. But I should also note that, in Marvels # 3, Busiek made a very minor reference to the Avengers supposedly being out of town at the time that was just lame, so maybe they were better off just leaving well enough alone.
Nevertheless, having read and re-read this story over the years, I still think it carries a certain majesty and power even today despite this (and other) problems.
Posted by: intp | September 29, 2017 1:48 AM
Well at this time the Avengers were facing Attuma in the Atlantic and dealing with the Collector's abduction of the Wasp. So it is easy to place them outside of New York City during the specific hours when Galactus shows up and arriving only after it's been resolved.
Posted by: Chris | September 29, 2017 2:50 PM
I think that for a story of this stature--a monument within the superhero genre, the signature piece by comics' greatest creative team, a source of wonder even after 50 years of re-reading--you just have to trust the storytelling instincts of the creators. Kirby and Lee were being very deliberate here, building on their mastery of the form and all the groundwork they'd set down previously. If they felt that nods to general continuity were superfluous, my inclination is not to dispute the point.
Posted by: Chris Z | September 29, 2017 4:42 PM
intp, it's because Galactus does not waste time with trivialities like the Avengers. Only the Four matter, so only they are there.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 29, 2017 8:35 PM
For me, I like to think that the way the timeline works out is this: As Galactus and the Silver Surfer come to Earth, a meteor descends that leads to the Looter gaining his power in Spider-Man while The Collector, desperate to gather supreme human specimens before Earth is totally wiped out, comes to gather The Avengers. Since these events were going on at the same time (by cover date). That's the way I justify not having the other heroes around at the time.
Posted by: Jonathon | October 1, 2017 9:57 AM
One What If issue shows the Avengers coming back from their battle with Collector as Galactus arrives - so you're not completely off.
Posted by: AF | October 1, 2017 10:37 AM
Nice find, AF!
Posted by: Jonathon | October 1, 2017 12:55 PM
Yeah, I have that What If issue. But what was Iron Man doing there? He wasn't with the Avengers in Avengers # 28. Read that story a long time ago and don't remember it that well.
Posted by: intp | October 1, 2017 4:19 PM
Hmm, nice move there by Jonathon to rationalize what happened. I like it.
Where were Thor, Iron Man, military, etc.? I wonder a rationale can be made for them as well.
Posted by: intp | October 1, 2017 4:22 PM
Thor wasn't on Earth. Iron Man was overseas dealing with Mandarin and Ultimo. That's going by cover date, of course.
Posted by: Robert | October 1, 2017 5:25 PM
Really, only the X-Men are unaccounted for during the crisis, then. Maybe Galactus, Lucifer, and The Collector carpooled from deep space. I can only imagine the conversations they'd have.
Posted by: Jonathon | October 2, 2017 12:47 AM
In regards to the early characterization of the Silver Surfer; Kirby envisioned him as a creation of Galactus, not a being that had been transformed.
That said, Kirby’s version of the Surfer rebelling carries a bit more gravitas as it’s not the story of a being rediscovering their own inner nobility, but rather being moved by the goodness in Alica Masters, and developing morality.
Out of scope for this issue, but I know Kirby not landing the Surfer book, and Lee reenvisioning the character contributed to the move to D.C.
Posted by: Tony | June 20, 2018 2:04 PM
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